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Whitening: the easy way to introduce esthetics into your practice.

July 1, 2006
Tooth whitening has become one of the cornerstones of the general practice. Whether you do in-office or take-home bleaching...
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Tooth whitening has become one of the cornerstones of the general practice. Whether you do in-office or take-home bleaching, or a combination of both, sometimes the other opportunities offered by bleaching can be overlooked.

Since the development of bleaching products nearly two decades ago, the demand for ways to produce and maintain a beautiful, more youthful smile continues to grow. This has been fueled by the rapidly growing baby boomer market. U.S. News and World Report predicts that by 2010, one out of three adults will be age 50 or older. The article also stated that the smartest way to market to this group is, “Anything that makes a 50-ish boomer feel 30 again is a good bet.”

Cosmetic awareness has also been raised through a series of TV reality shows. This is especially true with in-office bleaching. Tooth bleaching is one of the easiest ways to make the baby boomer look and feel younger.

Whole new departments of research and development have evolved in the majority of dental manufacturers because of bleaching. New resins and porcelains continue to get lighter and of higher value with tooth-whitening products. There also are whiting toothpastes and even a dental floss that claims to be a whitening product.

How many opportunities has your office missed as a result of not introducing other esthetic procedures subsequent or related to bleaching? I have had the opportunity to visit numerous dental offices, and have noticed that most dentists are missing an enormous opportunity to expand their market base simply by expanding the possibilities for patients who have whitened or plan to whiten their teeth.

Creating possibilities

Create possibilities by screening a bleaching candidate’s teeth, and assessing his or her expectations. If the patient is in the Vita shade range of A or B, then you most likely will be able to meet his or her expectations because these are the easiest shades to lighten. If the patient is in the Vita C or D range, then your success will be limited. In these cases, the results are often not acceptable and do not meet the patient’s expectations. This is an excellent opportunity to offer a more long-term result with veneers. This way, the patient can select his or her desired shade. A very large portion of my cosmetic practice stems from patients who cannot bleach their teeth to the desired shade. Their second option is usually porcelain veneers. Other patients may be too impatient for bleaching, or have teeth too sensitive for bleaching. Veneers offer an option for them, as well.

Moreover, patients should be made aware that bleaching has a maintenance factor. Some patients may find it tiresome to continue to bleach, especially if they want that Hollywood-perfect, super-white smile. Everyday habits such as coffee, tea, and tobacco make it difficult to maintain a high-value shade. Bleaching also can create uneven shading, which can make certain tooth anomalies more conspicuous. Once again, veneers offer an effective solution.

The esthetic continuum

Bleaching can even be a motivating factor for restoring posterior teeth. If patients bleach their teeth and have existing amalgam restorations, there will be a dramatic shift in shade value between the anterior and posterior teeth. This presents a great opportunity to offer direct or indirect resin placement, but many clinicians don’t prepare patients with treatment plans that include replacement of these restorations as part of their comprehensive care.

What about teeth with spaces between them, or rotated, crowded teeth? Can resin be added or is porcelain the best? Have you given these patients the possible options? You may be surprised at their receptivity!

Another consideration is offering bleaching to patients who only want upper veneers. Such patients are often concerned about the shade change between the upper and lower arch. This may be an opportunity to increase the value of these cosmetic cases by offering patients complimentary lower bleaching trays if they are enrolled in eight to 10 veneers on the upper arch, for example. A little creative thinking can provide incentives for patients to expand their treatment plans.

A peculiar irony

Every dental office in America is familiar with bleaching, so much so that it is often overlooked by many practices. Bleaching is a key piece to the total esthetic puzzle, not necessarily as a profit maker by itself, but as an opportunity to stimulate the thought processes for patients to look at the many other opportunities bleaching can create. Is your practice missing out in this increasing, demanding, and competitive market? Bright new possibilities await you and your patients!

According to the AACD, the number of cosmetic dental procedures has increased by 12 percent during the past five years. Increasingly, dentists are becoming more savvy about raising patients’ awareness of esthetics - and changing their own images more to that of “dental consultants.” In addition, at-home whitening products have become a $300 million-plus market.

Dr. Stephen D. Poss is the former clinical director at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. He received his DDS from the University of Tennessee and has received extensive postgraduate training from Baylor University of Contemporary Aesthetic Diagnosis and Treatment in Dallas. He maintains a practice in Brentwood, Tenn. He may be reached via e-mail at [email protected].

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